It may be a tad presumptuous to apologise. It assumes people have noticed my absence, that someone has missed my blog being updated on a semi-regular basis.
So, I am sorry.
To tell the truth, since I arrived home from Japan nearly two weeks ago - sleepy, sweaty from the flight, and blinking in the runny English sunshine (so different from the sharp shards of light that pierce Japan!) - I have been trying to marshall my thoughts into another blog post. I cannot leave the story half-told, even though it has been over for days now.
I am no longer jet-lagged. I have stopped craving okonomiyaki and ramen and inari sushi. My tan is starting to fade, but the white lines left from my socks and swimming costume are still visible. In fact, the whole thing is starting to fade a little, and I woke up last night wondering if it had really happened at all. Life has gone on. I opened my A-level results, celebrated getting into university, and started on my reading list.
It's not like I changed dramatically, like I found a new understanding of myself and have gained wisdom and knowledge previously beyond my ken. Nothing like that. I'm just a bit less ignorant about the rest of the world. All I've really learned for definite is where to get dinner in Bangkok for less than 40 baht.
The reason I can't finish writing is I can't get past Ise. Ise was a game-changer. It's this place slightly off the standard beaten tourist track, across the bay from Nagoya, home of the most famous Shinto shrine in Japan. It is demolished and rebuilt every twenty years. The inner temple is said to contain one of Japan's 3 sacred treasures, the Sacred Mirror, but nobody has seen it for centuries. The outer temple is bustling with temple-goers, but they are all Japanese. It is a site of holy pilgrimage. The signs telling you not to take photos are written in archaic kanji. There is no English anywhere.
I went to Ise on a whim - because I met a boy in Tokyo and he was going. Because I wanted to spend more time with him, because I had fetishized the idea of a whirlwind romance taking place across a whole country. Because I was scared that if we were apart for too long, he would just vanish. Evaporate. It seemed like he was too perfect to be true.
We went to the temple in the morning, and then went to Meoto Iwa, the Wedded Rocks, a pair of rocks tied together by a huge rope. They have been enshrined. They are officially gods. I took a photo of us in front of them, wondering how two deities would feel about being such a tourist attraction.
After that, we went to the beach. The ocean was so blue, and the sand so white, it looked like somewhere else, some tropical paradise, not the sort of thing you would normally associate with Japan. I wore a bikini, despite the fact the only other girls at the beach were either a) skinny as models, b) fully covered up, or c) both.
Lots of stuff went wrong that day. We fell asleep by accident. Trains were delayed (shockingly!). I got a sunburn so bad it blistered. He lost his umbrella. We got lost in Osaka and had an argument over which way to go. The internet cafe we eventually found was too expensive, so we slept fitfully on a sofa outside it, stealing the WiFi without ever going in.
And yet, it kind of didn't matter.
So, I'm sorry for not updating my blog sooner. I can't explain how, or why, but I'm stuck at Ise, with cheap sunglasses from Malaysia and a borrowed travel towel and a boy who kissed me under a parasol.
I'm now dating that boy. But I still haven't managed to write my bloody travel post about Japan.